By Kinchen Taylor
As the season draws to a close, March Madness is upon us. With the greatest two weeks in sports coming soon, that means only one thing: All Conference Honors talk. The next couple of Korner 3’s will discuss my predictions on All ACC first, second and third team, ACC Player of the Year, ACC Defensive Player of the Year, ACC 6th Man of the Year, and what the main focus of this article is, ACC Coach of the Year.
Let’s dive in to who I think the nominees should be:
- Roy Williams (UNC)
- Buzz Williams (Virginia Tech)
- Leonard Hamilton (FSU)
If you keep up with my columns, you would wonder why my midseason pick for ACC COY, Chris Mack has been left off of this list. For starters, Louisville has been on a skid lately that has led to losing 4 out of the last 5 and really if Jordan Nwora didn’t block a shot at the last minute, it would be 5 straight losses dating back to the meltdown against Duke. To make bad things worse, Louisville’s record in February was 2-6. Things are looking mighty bleak for Mack and company heading into March. So for the complete lack of winning close games, I’m not including Chris Mack in my Coach of the Year nominees.
One might also make an argument that Tony Bennett deserves a nod. In my opinion, the way I make these determinations is a simple formula. I take in a factor of preseason expectations, add in what has actually happened and then add in whether or not that is surprising. Virginia was picked to finish 2nd in the ACC, which is likely to happen and it is not shocking based on how good the Cavs have been under Coach Bennett. To me, it’s the same reason I am not including Coach K either. You were predicted to be good, you are good, there is no doubt or shock about it being so. Which leads me into my first coach nominee, Roy Williams.
Roy Williams has accomplished a lot at helm in that blue school over in Orange County. During his tenure in Chapel Hill, he’s only won ACC Coach of the Year twice (2006,2011). It’s not even that he is “due” for one either. It’s more that this team is good because of players and ways I didn’t think were going to be effective for the Heels this year.
Heading into the season, I had Luke Maye continuing his reign of terror against ACC front courts (except against Virginia), Nassir Little as an emerging superstar and Andrew Platek turning into a version of Grayson Allen at Duke. I admit, that last one was a stretch, but I did not expect Luke Maye to go nuts like he did last year either. From a State fan perspective I was/still am rattled from that. As the season has almost ended, it seems to me that none of that really came to fruition. It’s been more of Coby White becoming the star freshman wowing the crowd every night, with ways other than his sweet Afro.
Cam Johnson looks so much better than he ever did at Pittsburgh and they’ve had some solid contributions all and all from the bench, when they are healthy. It’s clear that Roy and his staff have done a tremendous job with this team, making them one of the favorites to win in Charlotte and a sleeper to win the NCAA Tournament. Let it be clear, as a State fan, I can’t keep the vomit down while typing all of these nice things. Roy should be a ACC Coach of the Year candidate for sure, now excuse me while I go watch Austin Rivers 3 point shot at the buzzer to win in the Dean Dome back in 2012.
Leonard Hamilton is my next candidate for ACC Coach of the Year. Can we pause for a second and take in the fact that this man is 70(!) years old. Seventy. Unreal, I did not realize how old he was until this season when it was brought up in a game by the announcers. He coached Miami a full ten years before this FSU gig, which he has been at since 2002. In other words, Leonard Hamilton has good genes and his kids ought to be thankful. Back to his candidacy, heading into the season, the ‘Noles were picked to finish 7th, kind of disrespectful coming off an Elite 8 run and only losing Braian Angola from last year’s team. Currently, Hamilton’s squad is competing for a top 4 seed and the coveted double bye in the ACC Tournament which is paramount. The less games you play in the ACCT, the better. I think it comes as no surprise with their outcome this season, but the shock is that the ‘Noles are still doing it with such a big roster. They have 10 guys who average over 10 minutes a game on the season. A top 20 overall team on KenPom with a highly ranked adjusted offense and defense to show as well. Hamilton has one of the deepest benches in college basketball and I believe he should be rewarded for it, which is why he is one of my nominees for ACC Coach of the Year.
My last nominee, and who I believe should be Coach of the Year, is Buzz Williams. The artist formerly known as Sir Sweats-A-Lot had already a great team heading into the season, but with Justin Robinson being out for an extended period of time, PJ Horne missing some games due to injury, the offense has not been as effective as it had been. Though even with the setbacks, the Hokies are still winning games. VT sits currently at 11-5 and is jockeying with FSU for the coveted final double bye in the ACC Tournament. Buzz took a team that was picked to finish 5th, got some great non-conference wins and even with injuries to key players during ACC play, they still find a way to compete for the best team behind Duke, UVA and UNC.
It’s with this I am going to predict Buzz Williams will win ACC Coach of the Year.
Next time I give my ACC Defensive Player of the Year and 6th Man of the Year Predictions. Discuss/Yell/Compliment my wild opinions on Twitter @kinchen1andonly and stay tuned for more Korner 3’s.